Written by Sabrina Bhargava, 11th grade
One of our favorite monikers for the United States is ‘The Land of the Free’. In a society known for its appreciation of diversity and immense value for individualism, uniforms are somewhat controversial because many feel they impose on students’ sense of individualism. The passionate ongoing debate about whether uniforms are conducive to a learning environment or not rages on- and I’m here to tell you why uniforms do increase student productivity and create a safer environment.
For students at Imagine, there are definitely mixed feelings about uniforms. It can be a hassle to find matching knee-length black socks at 7 A.M., and only being allowed to wear nude nail polish can feel downright oppressive. But I believe that as far as uniforms go, the benefits far outweigh the downsides.
A central argument against uniforms is that they limit self-expression. Don’t get me wrong; I, too, believe that self-expression and individuality are of utmost importance, especially to teenagers who are trying to figure out who they are. And as an impulsive and at times imprudent teen who loves crazy colored fingernails and once sported a streak of blue in her hair, I haven’t always been a fan of uniforms. But they’ve taught me that there are other ways to express yourself, and limitations on how you dress can strengthen your sense of self in other ways. Not only that, but they provide a level playing field, ingrain a sense of professionalism in students, and create a more focused environment.
Here are 5 reasons why I’ve come to appreciate my uniform because of my experience at Imagine.
The Level Playing Field: Uniforms serve as a social equalizer. When every student is required to wear the same thing, economic strata is no longer as pressing of an issue. Students no longer feel that they have to submit to the social pressure of fitting in by wearing the latest fashion trends, a practice we all know can be expensive given that these trends are ever-changing. (Trust me, Uggs and TOMS and Sperrys and skinny jeans are not exactly economical.) In uniform free schools, there are recurrent cases of students being judged or bullied because of their clothing, so uniforms definitely help students feel more secure in that sense.
The Professionalism Factor: Let’s face it- dress codes don’t end after high school. Most jobs in the United States require some kind of dress code, and uniforms prepare students for that. Wherever you choose to work, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to represent the company you work for in a specific way. Whether it’s a three piece suit at an accounting firm or a soccer jersey identical to that of your other team members, there will probably be some type of dress code to abide by. Uniforms teach discipline and serve as a stepping-stone to real world professionalism in various career paths.
A More Focused Environment: There’s a reason that these sometimes pesky and inescapable dress codes exist; the way you’re dressed is directly related to your subconscious mindset and behavior. It’s simply human nature to adjust your behavior to correspond with your outfit. Subsequently, casual outfits are likely to lead to a decline in productivity. Wearing jeans and flip-flops in AP Chem could lead to all too flippant of a mindset; uniforms, on the other hand, subconsciously send a message to your brain that it’s time to work. Additionally, when every student is dressed in the same way, they’re less focused on how they look and how they fit in with their peers. Thus, they can concentrate better on their schoolwork.
A Socio-Academic Culture: When the latest fashion statement is out of the picture, students tend to bond with their peers over academic subjects; the environment of a school dramatically changes when uniforms are implemented. Students assemble their peer-circles based on academic similarities and genuine personality likeness instead of flocking to people who are dressed the same way as them. School is more likely perceived as an academic atmosphere with allotted time for social interaction, instead of a social atmosphere in which academics are often pushed to the side.
Healthier Forms of Self-Expression: If dressing a certain way to make impressions about your personality is no longer viable, students are able to demonstrate individuality in more rewarding ways. I, for example, set myself apart from my peers by taking leadership opportunities whenever possible and performing well academically. I want my personality to come across, and use my brain rather than my body as my canvas for this. When there is no presumed perception of a person based on their outfit, they have the ability to express themselves more creatively. Being known for your passion for art or mathematical adroitness is way more profitable than being known for your fashion sense- wouldn’t you agree?
In all, I believe that uniforms create a healthier environment that is more conducive to learning than schools with open dress-codes. They make for a focused environment and take the pressure off of students to dress a certain way. On top of that, they’re less of a day-to-day hassle. Knowing exactly what you’re going to wear every single morning saves time and energy. Uniforms may limit your physical ability to express yourself, but they remind students that there are other ways to demonstrate individuality. And though I have my days when I’d love to be able to go to school in flip-flops, I know that ultimately uniforms are advantageous to my learning experience.